Sunday morning, not sunny, or even white. A muddy grey haze hung over the valley.
After a fifty-hour work week, that day marked the first of a five-day break. My body ached. I was still tired. The thoughts swirled. My anxiety peaked. I wanted to be lazy. Being lonely is easy. That obligation to use my freedom appeared. I took the leap.
I called that hostel in Moab which was advertised for $12/night. The reviews weren’t bad, and the guy who answered “Lazy Lizard” sounded like an old western character, when I called to check availability. In fact, it was the way he answered with “oh yeah, just come on by when you get to town” that most intrigued me.
In a panic, I packed, as the motivation waned steadily, threatening a victory for the excuses, a ticket to be lazy. My suitemate caught me in the kitchen, I had to regroup after a twenty-minute conversation.
“Camera, film, trail shoes, notebook” I ran through the essentials in my head. Nearly out the door, I saw my snowboard leaning up against the wall. “Shit, should I bring it?” In a heightened state of anxiety, this proved to be quite the decision. “What if I decide to go on to Park City” Or, if I hit Vail or Beaver Creek?” “What if it gets stolen” “Do you really want the liability?”
I wasted fifteen minutes contemplating. Another hurdle tried to derail the journey. I slid the board in the trunk and hit the road. It was 12:33.
Thin streaks of silver sun highlighted rows of white waves which splashed against the frozen shores, as I drove past Dillon Lake. I wanted to stop and take a photo, but the resistance had not yet been escaped.
Like globs of marshmallow goo, to a campfire stick, the trees around Vail pass were completely caked. Again, my desire to shoot ached. But I had to keep going. Resistance was just around the corner.
Out onto the western slope, the rocks turned red, and the sky turned blue, pink, purple, and orange. My thoughts became clearer. Stuck on the surface all week, I began to elaborate. A beautiful drive. A time to think. I exited for “Moab” around 5pm, just as the sun began to sink.
The town seemed quiet, much like it was in February. I drove past that place where my father and I stayed. That robotic British GPS voice told me to “turn left” at the end of Main Street.
Behind a complex of storage units, I followed the sign that said, “Lazy Lizard Parking”. Then, next to a row of trailers, the place appeared. It looked a bit bleak. I sat outside with my car running. The place seemed empty.
The door creaked. A warm wooden air welcomed from the iron chimney. A wooden entry, a kitchen, decently clean, a small dining area, connected to a room with seating. An extensive bookshelf. A homeless man, who shook my hand. I overheard the guys at the front desk talking about him as “the crazy guy with PTSD”.
I opted for the private room for $24. Dropped my bags upstairs, then rushed out the door toward the brewery.
A piping hot bowl of veggie chillie ($5). A pint of nut brown ($2.75). Desert was a stout ($2.75). $10.50 was the total. I scribbled in some notes.
I returned to the hostel around 7:30. I was tempted to go to bed, but I had to check out the social scene.
I found that photo book called “France”. Then sunk into a seat on the vacant sofa. At one table, a normal looking guy, probably late twenties, wearing a loose flannel, some casual khakis, and flip flops on his feet, sat, sipping soup. The Native American guy who appeared to work there, chatted with him from a desk with a computer screen. I opened the book, with one headphone in, but I was listening.
A girl joined in, but I couldn’t see her face, it hid behind the desk with screens. She and the flannel guy began a conversation. They talked about what brought them to Moab. She was originally from Salt-Lake, and was now traveling the Southwest, looking for a place to settle down, after spending three years in Hawaii. She said she’d gone there for a graduate program in “Chinese Medicine” after vowing to never spend more money on school following what she perceived to be a usual undergraduate degree.
This struck a chord with me. I turned another page of the book called “France”. Another reminder.
The guy talked a bit about his story. “I’m originally from Albuquerque, but I keep coming back to Moab it seems.” “I just like the vibe.” He said. Then, talked about his decisions to live debt free. “Sometimes I don’t have much money, and that means I have to rough it, but that’s okay with me.”
The homeless guy chimed in at random variations. I flipped through the book hurriedly, then snuck up to that back room to sleep.
There was a stain on the mattress. I could see it through the sheet. All night I clung to the edge of the bed, freezing, but still too disgusted to let the linens touch me. All the while, listening for my car alarm to scream, because of that damn snowboard gear that I’d decided to bring. At the first sign of light, I shot out of that bed of springs.
Downstairs, I fried three eggs, and sautéed ¾ of a bag of spinach. It didn’t taste great, but I needed the nutrition for the day.
“I wish I could hike, but my legs are too bad” The homeless guy told me, as I scraped the frost from me car. I was relieved to leave. I coasted through town and exited for the park.
That familiar grand entrance, it felt like I’d just left. Instead of paying $30 for a one-time pass, I splurged, and spent $80 on an annual pass. An investment for the next year.
Around those paved switchbacks, that carve up that red cliff. Through that turn with the big reveal of the park. I drove out to Delicate arch. We’d skipped it last time.
A red world, without vegetation. Roaming the desert in the morning. Without people, or sounds. It was truly sublime. The hike was about four miles. I returned to the car for more.
I did the “Devil’s Garden trail” A five-mile loop I’d done with my dad. Through several arches, and a loosely marked trail, it offered endless opportunities to explore.
On a smooth slab of rock, I stopped, and stretched. I listened to the silence. I breathed the gentle wind. Across the desert plains, with no one at all in sight. Completely unchanged, that valley without time.
The clouds rolled in. I turned down the “primitive road”. Through what seemed to be an old creek bed, I drove without direction. Nothing to question. The sun was setting. I wasn’t ready to leave.
I took a right out of the park. Started down that road back home. Climbed that first big hill. But I really didn’t want to go. “Will I regret leaving? Maybe” “Will I regret spending a little more money? No.”
I spun the car around and drove back into town. I saw a motel with a cheap rate advertised on the street. Stopped in. Got a room for $49.
It was actually quite nice. I Got some food (junk), then returned to the room. I Watched live television, from a king bed, a treat. Then, went to sleep.
I woke up around 7:30. Loaded the car. Ate. I didn’t want to waste any time. I was determined to create another day great. I flashed my pass and raced through the gate. With fresh air in my tires, the ride was smooth. I put my car in “sport” and manually toggled through the gears and listened to the boost.
At “Courthouse Towers”, the first lot on the left, I had the choice of every spot. Completely empty, I navigated a set of icy steps, and entered the Martian chapel. Daunting alien figures lurked in the stone, casting dark shadows onto the dried-up stream. I kept walking. It amazed me how quickly the view changed.
On a floor of smooth granite, I dropped my pack. On the edge of light, I stretched, and let the sun soak in. On a patch of untouched sand, I shed my shoes. Through my toes, the frigid sand seeped. Exfoliating that inescapable anxiety. Soothing my cold feet.
I filed back through the pews. Raced a few more corners. Hit the road. Through those yellow fields and back toward the pink wall of the western slope. Through a frosted forest, I returned to the land of snow capped peaks, just as dark blue became purple. Again, my pen leaks.
Film to follow